Collective efforts needed to stop deforestation

 MULKHOW (CHITRAL), Jan 31: Pakistan is a developing country and possesses only 4 per cent forest cover in its total land area. In most of the developing countries, this ratio is 20% and in developed nations more than 35%. [caption id="attachment_7416" align="alignleft" width="300"]A view of flooded Junalikoch in July 2012.--Photo by the writer A view of flooded Junalikoch in July 2012.–Photo by the writer[/caption] The forests in Pakistan are extended in 4,200,000 hectares area.  In Sindh , it is 399,000 hectares; Punjab, 608,000 hectares;  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 1668,000 hectares; Gilgit-Baltistan,666,000 hectares; Balochistan, 592,000 hectares and Azad Kashmir 267,000 hectares area is covered with forests. In Chitral, forests spread over an area of 70,000 hectares. Moreover, technically speaking,  forest does not mean only coniferous and scrub forest  rather farmlands trees, linear planting and riverain  plantation are combined to make such statistical data. Forests in ecological perspective play two main important roles; protective and productive. In protective aspects forests are playing a balancing role between global warming and global dimming. Forests are also required for a balanced ecosystem in terms of its role as a barrier against natural disasters, soil erosion, flooding  and silting. It provides shelter for many types of wild animals and thus has a part in maintaining biodiversity. In its productive side forests are used for fuel wood and in the form of timber for construction of buildings etc. Deforestation is a havoc that can be defined as a long-term process associated with forest land to convert it into other environmental land such as agricultural or urbanized land. Deforestation may be caused due to natural disasters or it may be caused by human intervention. In recent decades, the dynamism in deforestation has been observed. In developed countries the rate of deforestation is quite stable, whereas, in developing as well as under-developed countries, it has been advanced quite significantly as a result of increasing rate of population, need for agricultural as well as urbanized lands and need for harvesting forest biomass as fuel etc. District Chitral is more unfortunate than other districts of Pakistan, in terms of massive deforestation going on here for many years. Seven millions trees have been marked for cutting since 1967. Local inhabitants have raised their concerns over many times and have linked it with the authorities who are actually responsible for the maintenance, management and safeguard it. Local, National and even International media have gave a proper space to raise this issue in many forms and fronts. In a documentary made by Al Jazeera and shown on 12 August 2012, local inhabitants have shown grave concern over deforestation in Chitral. They have accused timber contractors, Police, government officials and provincial forest department of this huge deforestation. In the same documentary the officials of forest departments have mentioned different problems and have asked for help from community to cope this situation. Ruthless cutting of trees in the garb of marking and windfall along with smuggling of illegal timber by mixing with the timber of FDC has provided an excellent opportunity for a few people to earn a large amount of money at the expense of the local community. The forest in Chitral is depleting. If this pace continues for a few years, Chitral will be converted into barren land and new doors will be opened for natural disasters. For proper management and utilization of forest National Forest Policies were made in 1956, 1962,1980, 1991 and 2001 but none of these have made any impact in afforestation, reforestation and in controlling deforestation. In legislative front Forest Act of 1927 is still in practice and the forest ordinances of 1963 and 1964, and many more by provincial assembly can also contribute for halting the rate of deforestation but are directly linked with proper execution by concerned authorities. It is the time for ending blame game over this issue because it is going to be irreversible chronic. Now it needs a joint strategy. This is an alarming situation and needs to be stalled and then reversed. Local community, provincial forest department, police and other government has to hold hand to hand to combat it.  More responsible management approaches are being demanded that can accommodate complex economic and ecological needs. It is the time to diminish deforestation, and designation of selected forest lands for agro-forestry practices and the development of plantations and afforestation practices are needs of the hour.  ]]>

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